Shoes With No Socks In Cold Weather

In their fortieth year A Certain Ratio have gone all out and are set to release an anniversary box set in May, twenty eight tracks making up the singles and B-sides that weren’t included on any of their albums and sixteen previously unreleased songs. You can read about it here. Ahead of this they have just put this out, the semi-legendary results of the time in 1980 that ACR, Martin Hannett and Grace Jones assembled in Stockport’s Strawberry Studios to record a cover version of Talking Heads’ Houses In Motion. In the end Grace never completed her vocal for the track so Jez Kerr’s guide vocals are used instead (from a period when Jez wasn’t even ACR’s singer yet). How this has managed to lie unreleased for nearly four decades is something of a mystery but now it’s here and, as they say, better late than never, the Eno- produced New York funk of Talking Heads transplanted across the Atlantic to a side street in northern England at the start of the 80s. Taut bass, monotone vocal, congas and some stunning distorted, choppy guitar playing from Martin Moscrop before those wonderful, off key horns.

The video is completely new but fits the general vibe perfectly. The song is the from the vaults find of the year so far.

Gadji Beri Bimba Clandridi

June 2018 is a gift that keeps on giving in terms of images. In the picture at the top Diego Maradona celebrates Argentina finding some form of redemption against Nigeria (who didn’t deserve to lose to be honest). Diego danced with a Nigerian fan, celebrated Messi’s goal in ecstatic style, flipped double birds at fans below on the 86th minute winner and then had a health scare in the concourse. He is disappearing in a blizzard of coke. I love Diego in many ways but I fear for his health. In the picture below a resident of Mossley, in the Pennines east of Manchester, returns from the Co-op in a gas mask to protect from the moorland fires which have been out of control most of the week. The smell of burning peat hangs over the city.

Recently I have been a little bit obsessed with this song from Talking Heads in 1979. Byrne’s lyrics were adapted from a poem by the Dadaist writer Hugo Ball. The groundbreaking Afro-funk is the product of the band.

I Zimbra (12″ version)

It works well with this, out earlier this year from Sean Johnston’s Hardway Bros, a 2018 slice of Afro-funkiness.

I Guess I Must Be Having Fun

David Byrne played at The Apollo on Monday night and it was quite a night. Byrne had promised in advance that this tour was ambitious and it definitely did things differently in terms of staging and presentation. The stage was completely bare of any of the standard rock ‘n’ roll equipment- no amps, no drum riser or drum kit. As we took our seats all that was on the stage was a metal legged table and a chair under a single spotlight. At 8.45 he appeared, singing Here to a rubber brain. Dressed in a grey suit and shirt and barefoot, grown out white hair, he looks every inch the intellectual and artist. But things heat up very quickly after this arty intro. My friend, DJ, who got me the ticket, saw the show in Birmingham the night before and said that the crowd remained mostly seated throughout until the encore. From the moment the band hit the opening notes of the second song, his 2002 hit with X-Press 2 Lazy, the Manchester crowd is on its feet and dances until the end.
The band are all, in Byrne’s words, ‘untethered’. All dressed identically, grey suits and shirts and barefoot, the eleven players are free to move around. The guitar and bass have no leads, the keyboard player has his keys in front of him on a harness, again no leads, there are two hardworking backing vocalists/dancers and anywhere up to six drummers, standing up samba-style playing a variety of drums and percussion instruments. The show is highly choreographed. No backdrop or projections except for a silver metallic curtain and at one point a light as a TV set but the lights change the shape of the stage. Lit from low down hge shadows engulf the back wall during one song, genuinely exciting to look at. At times the eleven band members stand in a line, at times they move in circles or file in and out, some walking forwards as others move back. Lots of this seems to be a visual nod to Stop Making Sense. At the close of one song the lights go out and when they come up again the band are all lying down. On another they all stand on the right hand side and then stagger to the left, as if at sea in rough weather. All of this is very clever and very stylised and could run the risk of being too theatrical were it not for the playing and the songs. At no point do I wish they’d drop the artifice and just play the songs. The songs, the dancing, the show- all add up to something hugely imaginative.
Lazy is bright and breezy, full of bounce, and followed by I, Zimbra, monumentally funky and African influenced. They follow that with Slippery People. At this point I’m pretty much in David Byrne gig heaven- his voice is strong, his dancing energetic (and at times wonderfully in sync with his backing dancers) and the band are playing fully realised versions of the Talking Heads songs you want played at a gig. He throws in songs from other projects he’s had along the way, one from the album he did with St. Vincent and one from his record with Fatboy Slim and a few from solo records (Like Humans Do). The songs from the current album American Utopia slip in seamlessly, less arch in concert than on disc. Anyone else who had written something as influential and massive as Once In A Lifetime would play it as an encore. David Byrne plays it at about the half way point, a single spotlight following his jerky dancing along the lip of the stage. It’s all astonishing stuff- loud, clear, full of energy and the band and David are clearly enjoying the songs as much as we are. The set closes with two Talking Heads songs, first a blistering version of 1988’s Blind, a song I hadn’t expected and have loved since the day it came out, and then a red hot dance through Burning Down The House, the stage drenched in red light. To top this the first encore gives up The Great Curve (to join Remain In Light’s Born Under Punches, played earlier), groundbreaking funk in 1981 and still ahead of the curve now. The group then stand in a line and play a cover of Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout, minimal drumbeat and chanting voices- essentially a list of black men killed by white Americans. The tour is sold out. David is bringing the show back in December, to arenas. My advice, if you want to see someone doing something other people don’t or can’t and doing it as well as you can imagine, is to get a ticket. The heat goes on, as he reminds us forcefully in Born Under Punches, the heat goes on.

Warning Sign Of Things To Come

One thing leads to another- I few weeks ago I missed out on tickets to see David Byrne on his upcoming. C’est la vie. Then I read an interview with him which referred to a film from 2016 I meant to watch but didn’t get around to. The name of the film is 20th Century Women, and that’s what it’s about. I enjoyed it a lot, the story a single mother in her 50s and two much younger women, co-raising her son, a teenager, in late 1970s California. The film is peppered with the music of Talking Heads from their ’77 debut and the 1978 follow up. On Thursday I pulled out Talking Heads 1978 album More Songs About Buildings And Food and played it through a couple of times, an album I first got into in 1987. And now today you’re getting a song from that record, Warning Sign.

By 1978 Talking Heads were clearly something a little bit different, benefiting from the rush of CBGB’s punk, but clearly not punk, a four-square guitar band who were showing they could make people dance. And while David Byrne may have been leader, dominant mouthpiece and main songwriter the rhythm section, Tina Weymouth and husband Chris Frantz, were developing something just as unique as Byrne’s strange way of looking at the world lyrically. Warning Sign opens with Frantz’s drums and some wonderful reverb splashed all over his snare, then followed by Weynouth’s circling bassline. A guitar joins in and the group set up a groove that goes on for almost a minute before Byrne joins in with his nervous, neurotic vocals, echo and a slur adding some menace to the song. Brian Eno’s subtle production pays off throughout the song. As someone says over at Youtube ‘I could live in that bassline forever’.

Warning Sign

Making Sense

Jonathan Demme died a couple of days ago. When I was seventeen I watched Stop Making Sense for the first time, the Talking Heads concert film he made. It is fair to say that it made quite an impression on me. I wore my VHS copy out. This performance of Life During Wartime is something else with so many memorable moments- the keyboards are out there, David Byrne is full on and the bit where the front line all jog on the spot at the front of the stage is visually stunning.

Not only that, but this as well. New Order’s best video for one of their many 80s peaks.

Facts Just Twist The Truth Around

Looks like Jerry missed the message about wearing red for the photo shoot.

Songs to raise the spirits and raise the roof after a week/year of shite and disappointment- Crosseyed And Painless (The Heat Goes On). In 1980 Talking Heads were the funkiest post-punk group on the planet, expanding to include new people in the studio and soon a killer line up of live musicians, with with Brian Eno continuing on production. David Byrne’s control freakery had almost driven Tina and Chris out but they stuck together to make their last truly great album, Remain In Light. This is the opener and sets the tone for what is to come.

Byrne has said that the album was ‘spiritual’ and ‘joyous and ecstatic and yet it’s serious’ The groove on this song is something else, rhythms for dancing and losing yourself. The vocal parts call and respond like uptight gospel. And the lyrics defy explanation. ‘Lost my shape, trying to act casual’ he starts out. The phrase ‘I’m still waiting’ comes and goes and then towards the end he starts to list what facts can and can’t do. And as we all know, we are now in a post-fact world.

‘Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don’t do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don’t stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape
I’m still waiting… ‘

Born Under Punches

An extra post for Saturday. David Byrne is sixty four today. Sixty four! This performance by the expanded version of Talking Heads in Rome in 1980 is astonishing. ‘Fuckin’ nuts…next level shit!’ as one Youtube commenter has it.